Cafechurch Network

Wednesday, 9 September, 2009

Ian Mobsby talks to Cid Latty, Network Leader for Cafechurch Network.

What is cafechurch?

That is a very good question. I think we sometimes forget how far away many people are from ever coming to church. Cafechurch is all about creating a context for people who do not go to 'church', but are interested in God. It is about providing a comfortable setting for people to consider issues from a faith perspective. It is also a way to develop a community that people are happy to be a part of. All this is based on good incarnational theology.

How did it begin for you?

Three years ago I was Senior Minister of a Baptist Church in Welwyn Garden City that asked the question 'how can we engage with our community more effectively?' We could see that there were many people who might never enter a traditional church building. So we looked at our community and could see how a thriving café culture was rapidly developing. Coffee shops were opening up everywhere and this was happening right across the UK too. In fact a staggering 50% of the UK adult population visits a coffee shop. We found that many members of the church already used a coffee shop as a 'third place' between home and work. So we asked our local Costa Coffee if we could meet there and were amazed when they said yes.

How did you run your café church?

What we designed was a themed event with quizzes, a short talk, discussion and live music - all with the added benefit of being served by friendly staff. Our purpose was to help people engage with issues like debt, parenting or the environment from a faith perspective. We called it 'coffee with a conscience'. People would not only be invited to enjoy a lively evening of chat, hope and humour but we would offer them resources and prayer support that would help them engage with the issue after the event.

So how did the national organization begin?

What we ran on that first night proved to be so popular that I began discussions with Costa Coffee senior management and a few cafechurches were piloted in other stores. Due to the success of these, Cafechurch Network was formed. This charity was later given the 'OK' to put a cafechurch in every suitable Costa Coffee store in the UK. Additionally Costa asked that all churches wanting to use their stores should come through the Cafechurch Network. Today other coffee shop chains have opened their doors to the Network too.

How does this benefit Costa and the church?

Stores benefit as cafechurch helps them to be part of the local community. There are great benefits for the church too, as people who would not go to a more traditional church setting interact with people who do. This may be one of the first steps for some towards 'going to church'. For others they may feel that cafechurch in a high street location is the kind of church they want to belong to. This challenges us then to re-imagine how we can help people develop their relationship with God in a café context.

If there was something you would say to the church what would it be?

This is a great opportunity for an adventure of faith. I currently have more store managers asking for a cafechurch than I have churches ready. So I would invite churches to attend a cafechurch training day and then join the Network after that. When they do, we will link them to their local store and provide resources to help them run a cafechurch.

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